Applying to medical school

Our guide will help you to navigate the process of applying to medical school.

Location: UK
Audience: Medical students
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020
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If you are applying to medical school there will be a range of things to consider. From attending a university open day, submitting your application and attending an interview, we have produced a guide to help you get through the application process.

 

Subjects you need to study medicine

For students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, all UK medical schools accept applications that demonstrate:

  • good GSCE grades in math, science and english
  • a combination of GCSEs, AS levels and A-levels
  • chemistry at A-level and often A-level biology
  • one other science subject is often required, for example, physics (or physical science), or mathematics.
  • a good A-level grade in an arts subject such as history or a modern language will usually be accepted as a third A-level.

Students with mainly non-science A-levels are normally required to study a foundation course, which will add a year to the standard five year undergraduate course.

Applicants to UK medical schools with other qualifications, such as an international baccalaureate, should contact the individual medical schools or UCAS for details on equivalent entry requirements.

 

Find the right medical school for you

It’s important you leave enough time to do research, before applying to medical school.

The research will help you to find out what type of course will suit you and outline what you need to do for the application process.

Remember you can only choose up to four medical schools, so many students use the fifth as a back up option, applying to related courses like bio-medical science which require lower grades. Consider what other course you’d be interested in taking instead of medicine.

Attending university open days and visiting the campus will give you an idea of what life at university is like. Ask yourself if you would be happy to spend the next five years of your life there.

Take a look at our map of medical schools in the UK.

 

Writing your personal statement

The most important part of writing your personal statement is not to rush it. Find out the deadlines, apply as early as possible and give yourself plenty of time to get your application ready.

Medical schools want to know not just about your grades, but about you as a person. Talk about all the things you've achieved in your life: personal interests, hobbies, sports achievements, academic prizes, projects you've work on, social groups you've been a part of.

Read some more guidance from the Medic Portal website.

 

Getting work experience in a caring role

Whether it be as a volunteer or in paid employment, having experience in a caring role is extremely valuable.

We would advise looking up your local hospital or nursing home to see if you can do a placement. You could get in touch with doctors who have inspired you or your local GP, and ask them if you can do work experience with them.

Getting hands on experience will also give you a great insight into the day-to-day life of being a doctor and show your commitment to becoming a medic.

Read more about getting medical work experience.

 

Submitting your application

Have a checklist, double check your application against it and make sure you're including everything that is being asked for. Have a friend, teacher, family member or careers advisor look through and check all your application items.

Many medical schools have the same requirements, but it's up to you to be organised and make sure your application is received on time and includes everything required.

 

Medical school admission tests

Some medical schools use the UCAS tariff point system to designate entry requirements. This point system establishes agreed comparability between different types of qualifications and between applicants with different types and volumes of achievement.

In addition to application through UCAS, medical schools require applicants to take admission tests.

University clinical aptitude test (UCAT)

UCAT is used as part of the selection procedure for 30 medical schools in the UK. The UCAT test focuses on testing attributes considered to be valuable for healthcare professionals. It aims to ensure applicants selected to medical school have the mental abilities, attitudes and professional behaviours required to be successful doctors.

UCAT also offers various bursaries for those that require financial support to pay for the test, with applications open May to September every year.

Read more about UCAT.

Biomedical admissions test (BMAT)

BMAT assesses a candidate's potential to study an academically demanding undergraduate biomedical degree. The test is designed to be challenging, in order to discriminate effectively between applicants for university courses.

BMAT is required for applicants to:

  • University of Cambridge
  • Imperial College London
  • University of Oxford
  • University College London
  • Brighton and Sussex Medical School
  • University of Leeds
  • Keele University
  • Lancaster Medical School.

BMAT offers reimbursement of the standard test entry fee based on the candidate's ability to pay, as long as they have applied to a BMAT university.

Find out more information about BMAT.

Graduate medical school admissions test

The GAMSAT is a test for applicants to graduate-entry medical courses. The GAMSAT involves testing your ability to think critically, analyse information and express your thoughts clearly and effectively.

GAMSAT is required for applications to graduate-entry programmes at:

  • St George’s University of London
  • the University of Nottingham at Derby
  • the University of Wales Swansea
  • Keele University.

Registration for sitting the GAMSAT is between June and August, and the test takes place once a year in mid-September. At the moment, the GAMSAT test does not offer any concessions.

Find out more information about GAMSAT.

Attending an interview

Congratulations you’ve got an interview! One of the first questions you might be asked is ’why do you want to study medicine?’, it’s important to be 100% honest. You will stand out much more if you give a genuine answer, even if it sounds cliched.

For some medical schools, attending a face to face interview is an integral part of the application process. The medical school wants to get a sense of who you are not just academically, but who you are as a person.

Prepare as much as possible by practicing answering questions with friends and family, talk to others who have been through an interview to find out what it will be like.

Be prepared for questions about what you talked about in your personal statement, like your voluntary work, interests and background.

 

Once you've been accepted

Most offers to medical school are a conditional offer and based on scores you are expected to achieve at A-level.

The pressure will be on to make sure you achieve the results that are expected so you can take up your place at medical school.

Keep studying, focus on your exams and ask for help if you feel you need it. There's no harm in asking your teachers, a family member or friends for help if you feel you are struggling with your studies or just need someone to talk to.

 

You've not been accepted. What next?

Medical schools in the UK are generally oversubscribed, which means competition for a place is tough. If you miss out, it is important to consider your options.

Ask your teachers and career advisors for help in figuring out what your options are in higher education based on your grades and subjects studied. There may be a career out there which is just as rewarding and interesting within the medical profession, that is the right fit for you and your skills.

Don't be afraid to approach the medical schools to which you applied and ask for constructive feedback. Review your personal statement, continue to get work experience to give extra support to your application and look at alternative medical schools to the ones you originally applied to.

 

Start preparing for life as a medical student

If you are moving out of home or shifting to another part of the country to attend medical school, use all the resources on offer from your university. This includes sorting out your accommodation, attending any pre- course events and getting settled in to your new life as a medical student.

It's also worth looking through all the student finance options, do your research on bursaries, loans and grants on offer that can help you out during your studies.

Most of all, enjoy your success and look forward to starting your journey to becoming a doctor.